Gareth Smyth, CEO of Hilton Smythe Group

Hilton Smythe Group, a UK-based business sales and finance broker, suggests that the coronavirus crisis may not lead to the death of the high street, but instead may lead to a renaissance of small family firms.

Since the lockdown was announced on 23 March, many people have rejected standing in supermarket queues or missing out on the pub, by ordering from local shops and restaurants, supporting local businesses.

Many businesses have pivoted their offerings, such as market stall holders taking orders for delivery online or bakeries putting together care packages for those in need of a treat.

In addition, potential buyers are still on the look out for businesses as a way of considering their future post-lockdown.

Gareth Smyth, CEO of Hilton Smythe Group, said: “It’s an interesting time. We’re still getting enquiries from buyers even though we’re not able to complete sales at the moment, just as we’re seeing in the residential market. It’s positive though that people are looking to the future and preparing for life after lockdown.

“There’s a new landscape on the horizon, particularly in the high street. We’ve seen many large businesses already issue warnings, however smaller businesses that are still able to provide a service during the crisis, even if this is outside their usual business scope. There is a lot of Blitz spirit happening, and I think people are rather enjoying being able to support ‘mom and pop’ enterprises where they can.

“It’s my hope that this will continue once the world returns to normal, or as normal as possible, that people will remember the small businesses and return to them, even when you don’t have to queue for 20 minutes outside the supermarket.”

Gareth added: “Those looking to sell shouldn’t be put off by the current situation, business buyers ought to take a similar view to that of the banks in assessing CBIL loans, that is, taking the view that pre-COVID trade should eventually return to good, solid businesses.. If the business was doing well prior to lockdown, banks have been positive about financial support, and we fully expect this to be the case for those selling to serious buyers.

“I would suggest, though, that sellers are clear about why they’re going to market. As with any situation, just throwing the towel in would be a red flag to potential buyers, so be clear about your reasons and don’t seem fed up or desperate, and you should find you have limited impact from the coronavirus, at least in the mid to long term.”